After years of complaints that Hollywood is no place for an ageing actor, this year’s Oscars sees a full 25 percent of its actor nods go to the over 60’s.
With Glenn Close, 71, a frontrunner for Best Actress in a Leading Role (The Wife), she is joined by Viggo Mortensen, 60 (Green Book), and Willem Dafoe, 63 (At Eternity’s Gate) both nominated for Best Lead Actor, while Sam Elliot, 74 (A Star is Born), and Richard E Grant, 61 (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), received Supporting Actor nods.
Meanwhile, the Golden Globes awarded Michael Douglas, 74, with Best Actor in a TV Series/Musical or Comedy for his performance in Netflix’ ageing buddy series The Kominsky Method. The show also earned the golden gong for Best TV Series/Musical or Comedy.
Unsurprisingly, Close took home the Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture/Drama for her heart-breaking performance in The Wife, as a woman who silently allows her Nobel prize-winning author husband to take credit for her work.
So what does this all mean?
“It means that this is the golden age for talented older actors,” declares producer Harrison Powell, set to release his retirement community romantic comedy, Welcome to Pine Grove, later this year.
Based on the story of his own grandmother’s second shot at love after moving into a senior facility following the death of her husband, Powell describes this sweet comedy as “Mean Girls meets The Golden Girls”.
Starring Ellen Burstyn, 86, James Caan, 78, Ann-Margret, 77, Christopher Lloyd, 80, Loretta Devine, 69, and Jane Curtin, 71, Powell says the project was greenlit almost immediately.
“There’s so much talent in the 60+ age bracket,” says Powell, a venture capital financier-turned-film producer. “We wanted to not only celebrate them but to give this very under-served older audience something they’re looking for. I think people are starting to realize the buying power of the older audience so, from a financial standpoint, it makes real sense to give this audience something they actually want to see and can relate to. There just aren’t enough films for them.”
In a current climate dominated by comic book block-busters aimed at a prized youthful audience, movies targeted at retirees are finally finding their stride.
Jane Fonda, 81, and Lily Tomlin, 79, have found an eager audience in Netflix’s pithy comedy series, Grace and Frankie, now in its fifth season. And budgeted at $10 million, last year’s Book Club co-starring Fonda with Diane Keaton, 73, Candice Bergen, 72, and Mary Steenburgen, 65, grossed $93 million at the global box office. Meanwhile Bergen’s popular TV comedy series, Murphy Brown, which ran from 1988 – 1998, got new life last year with an unexpected 11th season, two decades after it first went off the air.
When Senior Planet recently caught up with film icon Jane Fonda, she admits it isn’t easy bringing senior projects to the forefront, especially when it involves sex. “In the US particularly, sex is kind of taboo. It’s weird because there’s pornography, but you don’t talk about it; you don’t really admit that it exists. Particularly if you’re old. Ageism is the word,” says the actress whose screen character enjoys a frisky frisson with Don Johnson’s ageing lothario.
Book Club’s success, she believes, is “because it stresses the importance of womens’ friendship, and there’s nothing so important as womens’ friendship. I think its way more important than sex.”
Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek’s romantic crime caper, The Old Man & the Gun, found its niche last year proving that, at 82, Redford is still a ladies man at heart. Likewise, Clint Eastwood, 88, can still pack the Cineplex, recently starring as a 90-year-old Korean War veteran caught transporting cocaine for a Mexican drug cartel in The Mule.
Coming full circle, Powell was surprised – and secretly delighted – to find he had to push back his shooting schedule for Welcome to Pine Grove owing to actor availability issues.
“They’re not just sitting around waiting for people to call. Some of them had gigs right before and right after. These older actors now find themselves very busy – thanks largely to Netflix and Amazon – that they weren’t always available. Ellen Burstyn came straight to us from shooting a film with Natalie Portman and is now in Australia doing a play. All the cast were very busy.”
Photo: Still from Welcome to Pine Grove, courtesy of Astute Films.